- change ups
Simmons Has Read On Reid
So when a recruiter he had used in the past to fill management positions told him about a Muskegon firm looking for a new president, Robert Simmons was interested.
That interest heightened when the recruiter enthusiastically told him more about the company, family-owned Reid Entities of Muskegon, and its history, growth and culture of always looking for new markets and sectors to serve.
"He wasn't just talking about a job. He was talking about an opportunity," said Simmons, who became president and chief operating officer of Reid Entities in mid-September.
Simmons heads the day-to-day operations of Reid Entities, the parent company of eight separate niche business divisions that include a sign company, tool and industrial supply companies, a supplier of snow plow parts, a tooling business, and retail stores that sell safety equipment, signs, power tools and apparel.
A veteran of nearly 30 years in the transportation and distribution industry, Simmons joined Reid Entities after working the last few years at Rand McNally & Co. in
At Reid Entities, Simmons saw an opportunity to build on the legacy and history of a successful company.
In interviewing for the job, he was immediately impressed with the company and was sold on the job the first time he met company Chairman and CEO Paul Reid. The move to Reid Entities is the "opportunity of a lifetime" and in considering the job, he said, "there wasn't a lot of decision-making involved."
"The atmosphere was very real and there was a commitment to carrying on. They were the right people," Simmons said. "It was a wonderful opportunity of taking a well-run family business and building on that tradition. It's a dream come true."
In Simmons, Reid Enterprises found a new president with a solid background in management who was eager for the challenge and whose capabilities, experience and outlook "fit real well with our company," Paul Reid said.
Reid began searching for a new president as he and longtime president John Bernard begin to near retirement age. "So we decided to bring in someone new and bring in a little new blood into the place."
A native of Birmingham in suburban Detroit, Simmons began his business career after graduating from what was then known as Grand Valley State College in 1975 with a degree in business administration. It was at Grand Valley State that Simmons earned another distinction — playing for the team that won the Lakers' first-ever football game, a victory over Kalamazoo College in 1974 after two winless seasons for the young college.
Simmons continues to get together with his former teammates from 30 years ago during the annual Laker golf outing for Grand Valley State alumni.
After college, Simmons decided to write to each of the trucking companies in the Detroit area where he worked on the docks during the summers while attending college. Those inquiries paid off with a job at the former Mid-American Truck Lines in St. Paul, Minn., where Simmons entered the management trainee program.
Over the years, he's held a variety of executive and management positions, including a stint in the 1980s as a regional manager for courier DHL.
Simmons is now putting those skills to work at a diverse company where leveraging the capabilities of each business unit and the employees is key.
At Reid Entities, which was founded in 1948 by Paul Reid's parents, Liberty and Gloria Reid, as a small tool supply business, Simmons oversees the parent company for the separate business units. The key to running a diverse company, which has 160 full- and part-time employees and has targeted sales of $50 million for 2005, is "having the right people," and then trying to blend the businesses together through business planning, strategy and tactics, he said.
"Trying to tie them all in, it's a tall challenge and a unique challenge," Simmons said. "You have to look at where are the synergies and where are the differences and how do you build on that."
The latest endeavor toward that goal is in the retailarena, a sector Reid Entities entered a year ago with a store in Traverse City, Reid Safety Supply, that sells safety supplies, work boots, Milwaukee power tools, signs, cleanup and emergency response equipment, and apparel.
The company opened a second Reid Safety Supply store last month on Sherman Boulevard in Muskegon. The stores sells to industrial companies, contractors, construction workers, delivery drivers and people who work outdoors
Getting into the retail business follows the company's strategy of branching out into new sectors and looking for new ways to serve customers to grow the business. Reid Safety Supply complements the company's Web and catalog sales efforts and opens a new distribution channel to reach customers, Simmons said.
The company will look at expanding the retail arm to additional target markets in the future, he said.
"If you look at how do you try to match as many customer needs as you possibly can, and have as many distribution channels to get to them, this is part of growing the business," Simmons said. "We have to always be looking at how to re-invent ourselves, and this was an excellent way to expand our offerings and our channel."
Simmons sees more business units in the future, as Reid Entities adjusts to the marketplace, identifies new opportunities and constantly re-invents its core markets. The existing diversity of the business will help in identifying and examining new business opportunities in the future, he said.
"Tradition is something to build upon, not rest upon," Simmons said. "The immediate goals are to exceed the expectations. Right now we do not have any boundaries as far as where we can go."
Name: Robert Simmons
Company: Reid Entities
Position: President and chief operating officer
Personal: Wife, Jacqueline; three grown children
Biggest career break: His new position at Reid Entities. "I have the opportunity to build on something that has been very good."